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The Different Stages of a Wrongful Death Claim

Your Ultimate Guide to the Stages of a Wrongful Death Claim

There are several different stages and procedures in a wrongful death claim. Not every wrongful death claim necessarily culminates in a lawsuit. In fact, in certain cases, it is better to seek alternative measures of dispute resolution, since lawsuits can be time-consuming and expensive. In summary, a wrongful death claim begins with notice to the liable party or parties, and ends with litigation, arbitration, or a settlement.

What Happens During Pre-Litigation?

During the pre-litigation phase, the decedent’s personal representative fulfills important tasks and makes critical decisions in preparation of a claim:

  1. Consult with a qualified wrongful death attorney.
  2. Set up the decedent’s estate.
  3. The attorney investigates the case on a contingency fee basis.
  4. Once enough evidence has been gathered to make an informed decision as to which parties to pursue for a financial recovery, notice is sent out to those parties.
  5. Claimants and defendants can negotiate a settlement and avoid litigation. However, if all parties cannot come into agreement, then a lawsuit may be necessary.

Litigation (The Wrongful Death Lawsuit)

Litigation begins when negotiations end (in failure). The word “lawsuit” is typically used instead of “litigation.” The following steps are involved in a lawsuit:

  1. A Complaint or Writ of Summons is filed and served upon all of the defendants.
  2. A Response is filed by the defendant(s) within a specified time.
  3. Attorneys gather as much evidence as possible during the Discovery stage. Interrogatories, Request for Production of Documents, and Depositions are common in this stage.
  4. In the Pre-Trial stage, the judge is educated about the case, a jury is selected, and at least one conference is scheduled between the judge and the attorneys. During the conference, the judge may attempt to help resolve the case.
  5. During the Trial or Arbitration stage, the case is presented to a judge and jury, or an arbitrator, who decide the outcome.
  6. In the Post-Trial phase, one or all of the involved parties may appeal or challenge the outcome.


Properly investigating and effectively handling a wrongful death case requires the knowledge and skills of a lawyer who has experience in these matters. At Wilshire Law Firm, we have helped countless clients throughout California get justice and fair compensation for their loved one’s passing. To receive a comprehensive evaluation of your rights and legal options in a FREE consultation, call us today at (800) 522-7274.

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